The B2B demand pendulum will swing back up-funnel in 2022

Kevin Tate, Clearbit CMO
By Kevin Tate, Clearbit CMO | 12 January 2022

Over the last two years, many B2B teams have been hyper-focused on sales engagement with buyers closest to the point of purchase. It’s easy to understand why, since bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU) buyers are the closest to the point conversion and marketers can draw a nice, clear line from their campaigns to revenue.

However, some companies have perhaps over-indexed on this near-term pipeline acceleration. While buyer groups and intent signals are important, having a healthy pipeline for the longer-term requires a balance of top-of-funnel (TOFU) demand generation as well.

In 2022, I predict we’ll see an overall shift in budget allocations back toward more TOFU activities (such as B2B social advertising, brand awareness, and relevant content) as teams seek to broaden and deepen their demand funnel.

Balancing BOFU and TOFU

So what might cause marketers to focus more up-funnel again? When everyone started working remotely and budgets could no longer go towards large, in-person events, B2B marketers had to ask themselves, “How are we going to replace those leads?” Those in charge of a million-dollar events budget had to quickly decide where to reallocate that spend, and many began experimenting with - or leaning further into - online promotion options such as B2B social advertising and webinar events. Based on the success of those online B2B efforts in 2021, we’re seeing teams allocate more budget in 2022.

What does brand awareness advertising look like for B2B teams today?

Social advertising can be challenging for B2B brands that haven’t tried it before. Many expect paid social to convert in the same way that search engine marketing or traditional digital display ads do, making social advertising seem more expensive on a cost-per-click basis, and leading to unexpected results. For example, direct calls to action, such as “click here for a demo” don’t tend to work as well in social, since people are often not in a ‘work’ mindset as they check out their friends’ vacation photos. On the other hand, high-level B2B brand awareness advertising - especially when targeted to specific prospect audiences - can be surprisingly effective (and cost-effective) on social channels. While it requires a slightly different approach to targeting, measurement and optimization, B2B social spend can have a big impact on awareness, ensuring a brand and its products are top-of-mind when prospects are ready to start researching solutions.

Leading with brand awareness and content on social channels also has the benefit of creating more engagement signals (such as watching an on-demand webinar or viewing the product page) that help tune and optimize social advertising algorithms for higher conversion. Currently, the best algorithms for targeting specific accounts are Facebook and Google. What makes them so good? Simply put, they ​​are the most effective at putting content in front of users who are most likely to have a positive reaction to it. And since these algorithms get better with more signals, marketers benefit from feeding them as many relevant engagement signals as possible.

Tips for more effective TOFU marketing

With TOFU marketing top of mind for many B2B teams, how can marketers do it best in the year ahead? Some tips include:

  1. Setting clear goals and measuring carefully. Make sure the teams are aligned and correct expectations are set. TOFU marketing is not a silver bullet, but a long-term strategy. Part of what keeps marketers from shifting to higher in the funnel – where it is more awareness-based – is that it tends to be less tied to “leads-this-week”. If marketers go in with a leads-this-week mindset, they’ll likely be disappointed. But if they take a pipeline and leads-next-quarter approach, then they might be pleasantly surprised.
  2. Tuning and optimizing campaigns. Most social platforms were built primarily for B2C companies and advertising. The way B2C marketers optimize their campaigns is by looking at whether a person clicked on an ad and then bought the product. This isn’t how it works for B2B companies selling, say, $100K+ software suites with 90-day sales cycles. For B2B marketers, optimization shouldn’t be driven by whether a person (eventually) bought the product, but rather by engagement signals such as someone looking at the solutions page, downloading an eBook, etc. It’s important to collect the right signals to help optimize targeting and spend in ways that are meaningful and practical.
  3. Measuring awareness and engagement with your ICP. When conducting campaigns, a feedback loop is always important - and the most important metrics relate back to your ICP, or “Ideal Customer Profile.” Make sure your marketing intelligence solution allows your team to see how campaigns are driving awareness, engagement and ultimately pipeline with your ICP audiences.

In 2020 and 2021, the industry saw massive, accelerated shifts in both B2B buying behavior and B2B marketing tactics. Now, as companies enter 2022, we’ll see the impact of new marketing strategies - and budgets - that reflect these shifts and the new opportunities (and challenges) they present. For many teams, this will include a re-focusing on TOFU awareness efforts through digital and social channels - and a longer-term view of pipeline development.

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